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Chapter 3

The Mathematics of
Sharing
Ling Yeong Tyng
Faculty of Computer Science & Information Technology
University Malaysia Sarawak
Source: Peter Tanenbaum

3 The Mathematics of Sharing


3.1 Fair-Division Games
3.2 Two Players: The Divider-Chooser
Method
3.3 The Lone-Divider Method
3.4 The Lone-Chooser Method
3.5 The Last-Diminsher Method

3.6 The Method of Sealed Bids


3.7 The Method of Markers
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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 2

The Method of Markers


The method of markers (discrete fair-division
method).
Requires:
(1)there are many more items to be divided
than there are players in the game and
(2)the items are reasonably close in value.

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 3

The Method of Markers


- items lined up in a random but fixed
sequence (array).
- Each of the players make an bid on the
items.
- A players bid consists of dividing the array
into segments of consecutive items (as
many segments as there are players) so
that each of the segments represents a fair
share of the entire set of items.
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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 4

The Method of Markers


For convenience, we might think of the array
as a string. Each player then cuts the string
into N segments, each of which he or she
considers an acceptable share. (Notice that
to cut a string into N sections, we need N 1
cuts.) In practice, one way to make the cuts
is to lay markers in the places where the cuts
are made. Thus, each player can make his or
her bids by placing markers so that they
divide the array into N segments.
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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 5

The Method of Markers


To ensure privacy, no player should see the
markers of another player before laying down
his or her own.
The final step is to give to each player one of
the segments in his or her bid.

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 6

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Alice, Bianca, Carla, and Dana want to divide
the Halloween leftovers shown in Fig. 3-16
among themselves. There are 20 pieces, but
having each randomly choose 5 pieces is not
likely to work wellthe pieces are
too varied for that. Their teacher,
Mrs. Jones, offers to divide the
candy for them, but the children
reply that they just learned about
a cool fair-division game they
want to try, and they can do it
themselves, thank you.
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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 7

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Arrange the 20 pieces randomly in an array.

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 8

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Step 1 (Bidding)
Each child writes down independently on a
piece of paper exactly where she wants to
place her three markers.
The A-labels indicate the position of Alices
markers (A1 denotes her first marker, A2 her
second marker, and A3 her third and last
marker).
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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 9

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Step 1 (Bidding)

Copyright 2010 Pearson Education, Inc.

Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 10

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Step 1 (Bidding)
Alices bid means that she is willing to accept
one of the following as a fair share of the
candy:
(1)pieces 1 through 5 (first segment),
(2)pieces 6 through 11 (second segment),
(3)pieces 12 through 16 (third segment), or
(4)pieces 17 through 20 (last segment).

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 11

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Step 2 (Allocations)
This is the tricky part, where we are going to
give to each child one of the segments in her
bid. Scan the array from left to right until the
first first marker comes up.

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 12

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Step 2 (Allocations)
This means that Bianca will be the first player
to get her fair share consisting of the first
segment in her bid (pieces 1 through 4).

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 13

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Step 2 (Allocations)
Bianca is done now, all her markers can be
removed.
Continue scanning from left to right looking
for the first second marker. Here the first
second marker is
Carlas C2, so
Carla will be the
second player
taken care of.
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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 14

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Step 2 (Allocations)
Carla gets the second segment in her bid
(pieces 7 through 9). Carlas remaining
markers can now be removed.

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 15

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Step 2 (Allocations)
Continue scanning from left to right looking
for the first third marker. Here there is a tie
between Alices A3 and Danas D3.

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 16

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Step 2 (Allocations)
As usual, a coin toss is used to break the tie
and Alice will be the third player to goshe
will get the third segment in her bid

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 17

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Step 2 (Allocations)
Dana is the last player and gets the last
segment in her bid

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 18

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Step 2 (Allocations)
At this point each player has gotten a fair
share of the 20 pieces of candy. The amazing
part is that there is leftover candy!

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 19

Example 3.11 Dividing the Halloween


Leftovers
Step 3 (Dividing the Surplus)
The easiest way to divide the surplus is to
randomly draw lots and let the players take
turns choosing one piece at a time until there
are no more pieces left. Here the leftover
pieces are 5, 6, 10, and 11 The players now
draw lots; Carla gets to choose first and takes
piece 11. Dana chooses next and takes piece
5. Bianca and Alice
receive pieces 6 and 10,
respectively.
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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 20

The Method of Markers Generalized


The ideas behind Example 3.11 can be easily
generalized to any number of players. We
now give the general description of the
method of markers with N players and M
discrete items.

Preliminaries
The items are arranged randomly into an
array. For convenience, label the items 1
through M, going from left to right.
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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 21

The Method of Markers Generalized


Step 1 (Bidding)
Each player independently divides the array
into N segments (segments 1, 2, . . . , N) by
placing N 1 markers along the array. These
segments are assumed to represent the fair
shares of the array in the opinion of that
player.

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 22

The Method of Markers Generalized


Step 2 (Allocations)
Scan the array from left to right until the first
first marker is located. The player owning that
marker (lets call him P1) goes first and gets
the first segment in his bid. (In case of a tie,
break the tie randomly.) P1s markers are
removed, and we continue scanning from left
to right, looking for the first second marker.

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 23

The Method of Markers Generalized


Step 2 (Allocations)
The player owning that marker (lets call her
P2) goes second and gets the second
segment in her bid. Continue this process,
assigning to each player in turn one of the
segments in her bid. The last player gets the
last segment in her bid.
Step 3 (Dividing the Surplus)
The players get to go in some random order
and pick one item at a time until all the
surplus items are given out.
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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 24

The Method of Markers: Limitation


Despite its simple elegance, the method of
markers can be used only under some fairly
restrictive conditions: it assumes that every
player is able to divide the array of items into
segments in such a way that each of the
segments has approximately equal value. This
is usually possible when the items are of small
and homogeneous value, but almost
impossible to accomplish when there is a
combination of expensive and inexpensive
items.

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Excursions in Modern Mathematics, 7e: 3.1 - 25